by Kathy Crandall Robinson, Senior Public Policy Director
We have put together our visual pie charts of the President’s Federal Budget Request for Fiscal Year (FY) 2016 (which begins on October 1, 2015). There is a picture of the total federal budget – this year over $4 trillion dollars. That’s a lot – almost too much to comprehend. A trillion dollars stacked end to end would reach to the sun. (See more on visualizing a trillion and what it could buy here.)
The largest portion of the federal budget is “mandatory spending” ($2.63 trillion, 65% of the FY 2016 Budget Request). This funds programs that Congress has already established with authorization laws. These laws establish federal programs and mandate that Congress provide funds needed to keep the programs running. In order to change funding for these programs Congress must change the authorization law itself. Much of this spending is on earned benefits programs (sometimes called “entitlement spending”), like Social Security, Medicare, and pension programs.
Interest on the federal debt this year is $283 billion, 7% of the FY 2016 Budget Request. Under the President’s budget plan national debt and interest on the debt will grow in coming years. (This is a notable concern for many congressional fiscal hawks such as Republican Budget Committee leaders in the House and Senate.)
The “discretionary budget” at $1.15 trillion, 28% of the FY 2016 Budget Request, is the pie that Congress slices each year in its annual appropriation process – deciding how much will be appropriated to each priority function of the government.
Guess what gets the biggest slice of the discretionary budget pie? Once again over half of the discretionary budget pie is eaten up by Pentagon spending, including spending on wars and nuclear weapons at $612 billion, 53% of the discretionary budget. See “Budget Time is Dessert Time at the Pentagon.”
The President’s Budget Request is an important blueprint showing budget priorities and outlining a workplan for federal agencies. However this budget blueprint is just an opening serve in the budget game. Congress has the “power of the purse” – the U.S. Constitution places responsibility and authority to raise and spend money with Congress.
And that means we all have a role to play too. Are your priorities reflected in spending so much money each year on the Pentagon, wars and nuclear weapons, even if it means less for education, safe roads, rails and bridges, or less to provide for our veterans? If we spend that much on the Pentagon, shouldn’t we know that this money is well spent to ensure our security and not wasted on outdated weapons systems and mismanaged programs?
Please join us for our budget webinar to find out more about the budget, when and how you can play a part in the budget process and highlights (and lowlights) of the Pentagon spending budget.
Please also see: 2015 Budget Fact Sheet